Spotlight
Family Law Awards 2020
Shortlist announced - time to place your vote!
Court of Protection Practice 2020
'Court of Protection Practice goes from strength to strength, having...
Jackson's Matrimonial Finance Tenth Edition
Jackson's Matrimonial Finance is an authoritative specialist text...
Spotlight
Latest articles
Behaviour-based divorces still merit close consideration
Some recent cases illustrate the evidential and procedural issues involved in dealing with proofs on the merits of divorce, which are worth considering even though most cases may conclude on a...
HM Courts & Tribunals Service confirms 2020 Christmas and new year closure dates
HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has confirmed the dates over the Christmas and new year period in which Crown Courts, magistrates’ courts,...
Lockdown 2: how does it affect child contact?
No sooner had clarity been obtained as to how child contact would work within and across the tier system, than the government announced its suspension in England.  From 5 November 2020, a 4-week...
Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust v AB
The issue in this case concerned AB’s capacity to make specific decisions about treatment relating to her anorexia nervosa. She was 28 years old and had suffered with anorexia since the age of...
New Cafcass guidance on working with children during COVID-19
The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has published guidance on working with children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The guidance sets out arrangements for...
View all articles
Authors

Family mediation can help address the annual multi-billion taxpayer cost of family breakdown

Sep 22, 2020, 16:21 PM
Slug :
Meta Title : Family mediation can help address the annual multi-billion taxpayer cost of family breakdown
Meta Keywords :
Canonical URL :
Trending Article : Yes
Prioritise In Trending Articles : Yes
Date : Sep 22, 2020, 16:19 PM
Article ID :

As the consultation process surrounding the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) draws to a close, it is worth reminding ourselves of the value that could be delivered to the taxpayer by improved take-up of family mediation. 

Four years ago the annual cost to the UK economy of family breakdown was calculated at £48 billion by The Relationships Foundation. The ‘hidden’ costs of divorce and separation to the taxpayer include: 

•           Welfare benefits 

•           Emergency housing following domestic violence 

•           Physical and mental health 

•           Social services and care 

•           Children in care 

•           Police and prisons 

•           Courts, legal services and legal aid  

•           Child maintenance 

•           Educational provision following disciplinary and behavioural issues 

•           Free school meals 

•           Tertiary education drop out 

•           Young people not in education, employment or training

So as Ministers prepare to review the way its departmental budgets are allocated, they should be reminded of the way the government itself has long trumpeted the benefits of family mediation, expressing a wish for its expansion.  

The success of family mediation is also proven. Early in 2020 the Family Mediation Council announced results of a survey of mediators. 73 per cent of Mediation Information And Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) attended by both parties converted to full mediation, and 70 per cent of mediation cases resulted in agreement. 

So NFM and government Ministers agree that more separating families need to reap the benefits. 

The LASPO Act had a devastating impact on mediation take-up and, since LASPO, the number of litigants in person has soared, causing family courts to be swamped. COVID-19 has of course exacerbated the situation in recent months, with family courts closed, further increasing the logjam. There is no end in sight to this. It is generally recognised – and has been for some time – that this situation is untenable. The government needs to act.  

The CSR offers a great opportunity for Ministers to take some simple and relatively inexpensive steps. 

NFM is not arguing for wholesale legislative change, with the upheaval and expense that would bring. 

As realists, we recognise we have to work with what we have. The truth is much of it is already in place, but needs to be used better. 

NFM has three requests that we have submitted to Ministers as part of the CSR consultation, and which we fervently hope will emerge from the CSR and associated processes: 

Firstly that MIAMs are made free of charge to all. With a 73 per cent conversion from MIAM meeting to full mediation, and a 70 per cent agreement rate resulting from this conversion, the government will reap the benefits of more families reaching agreements away from court – reducing the burden on the taxpayer. 

The simplest way to improve MIAM attendance and therefore conversion to full mediation would be to make the now-compulsory MIAM meeting freely available to all, particularly at the point people are making application to court.  

There would be a relatively nominal additional cost to this measure, compared to the huge and rising costs of running family courts and providing other private family law services. 

Second, we ask for improved gatekeeping, so that the courts are confident people have in fact been to the ‘compulsory’ MIAM. This would involve some minor administrative changes, but the impact would make it worthwhile.  

Thirdly, a cost-neutral measure. Judges should be encouraged to make use of their existing powers under S.11a of the Children Act 1989 to adjourn cases for MIAM attendance as a contact activity - either separate to an order to attend a SPIP programme or at the same time, and as routine when cases are set to face significant delay before they come to court.  

This would give mediators access to more separating couples, and so convert people to undertaking full mediation.  

These steps would help meet demand and expand mediation for families at a vulnerable time. And, of course, they would help address the multi-billion pound annual cost to the UK taxpayer of family breakdown. 

Categories :
  • Articles
Tags :
  • family mediation
  • Mediation
Authors
Provider :
Product Bucket : Family
Load more comments
Comment by from